A Multidisciplinary Approach to Solving Cold Cases



I.                   UTAP

A. The UTAP is a collective of experts in various disciplines.

B. The “board of experts” is comprised of investigators and forensic scientists, behavioral scientists, medical scientists, psychiatrists, and crime scene investigators in the area.

C. The first team was comprised of sixteen people from any of the given fields above.

D. They also interviewed convicted repeat offenders in order to get a better glimpse into the criminal mind.

E. The mission of UTAP is to facilitate cooperation, communication, and coordinate among different law enforcement agencies to investigate, identify, track, apprehend, and prosecute violent offenders and assist in the resolution of major cases.

F. Strengths

1.      Investigative decisions are not solely based on the opinion of investigators, but also on those of people with psychological, medial, and forensic backgrounds.

2.      The nature of this team is supportive and not competitive. Services are presented as suggestions, recommendations, observations, and reference based upon different views. This virtually eliminates any one agency feeling the critical eye of others and refusing their assistance.

3.      Specialize in the bizarre or unusual. By using an outside consultant the initial crime scene analysis won’t be tainted by someone cluttered by crime scene stressors.

4.      Trained integrators who know to watch for certain cues of the suspect. They are trained to separate themselves from their personal feeling, morality, background, and education, in order to really understand the suspect.

5.      Victimology, the study of who is the victim, is important. Through this the team can generally learn a lot about the offender. This way integration is more investigative since they have already gathered a lot of information on the offender. They don’t waste time by drilling questions.

G. Weakness

1. If departments or specialists don’t work well with others the whole system will not be effective.

H. Example of Interviewing Technique

1.      A serial killer named Daniel Troyer was interviewed in a prison system outside of Utah. Troyer confessed to his murders and that he on several occasions undressed his victims and masturbated over them.

2.      Research on his background showed that he had feelings of inferiority around older women due to his mother’s demanding nature. She was verbally hostile to him as he grew up. He joined the Navy and was dishonorably discharged after he went AWOL and raped and elderly women.

3.      The interview took place in the room reserved for the board of pardons. They set up the table so that Troyer had the high cushioned chair and a desk with a computer on it. The computer’s monitor was displaying a photograph of an unsolved murder of an elderly woman. Across the room from the cushioned chair was an American flag.

4.      When Troyer entered the room, the interviewer thanked him for the opportunity to learn from him. They assured Troyer that he was in charge and that the interviewers where the students. This was done based on the knowledge of Troyer’s terrible self-image and inability to feel confident, so the interviewers empowered him from the start.

5.      Troyer initially started to sit in the small plastic chairs but the interviews urged him to sit in the comfortable one. Immediately his eyes looked at the flag hanging, at which time he interviewers told him their admiration for the men in the service. When he brought up his dishonorable discharge, the interviews explained that they knew how misunderstandings happen.

6.      The total integration took eight hours over the course of two days. Troyer changed his story about he murders being an accident to a full confession of premeditation, fantasy, and experiences of reliving the murders.

I. Forensic Evidence

1.      Very few officers have the technical knowledge or training on how to appropriately deal with forensic evidence such as interpreting blood stain patters.

2.      The team approach offers the case man analytical tools which would help decided the best course of action.

3.      Nearly all law enforcement agencies have access to the electronic databases to assist them. However they still need trained team members. Due to all the different fields that these teams are assembled from they can pool their resources and use several databases to find leads.

J. Ten filters of profiling

·         A way of doing “Process of elimination”

1. Victimology

a. Examining who the victim is will help investigators deduce a more clear suspect list and eliminate some misguided leads.

b. Considered the most beneficial investigative tool in classifying and solving violent crimes.

c. Likely the selection of the victim will tell the investigator a possible motive of the offender.

2. Initial Contact Site

a. Place where the victim and the suspect first meet each other.

b. Questions such as why here, and how it assisted the offender can help the investigator.

c. Close detail should be noted such as what kind of location it is, residential, business, industrial, or shopping district.

d. If the victim is a regular visitor to this place it is important to know for it will tell the investigator if offender choose the spot or was that attack done under normal circumstances.

e. The most important thing the contact site can tell is how much familiarity the offender has with that location.

3. Crime Scene Analysis

a. Everything around the site must be noted and documented.

b. This includes things that might be missing from the area.

      Example: Did the suspect disable any nearby phones?

c. Very similar to the steps taken in Filter 2.

4. Disposal Site

a. Relevant to the offender’s thought process during the disposal phase of the crime, such as possible planning.

b. First question raised is if there is any correlation between the disposal site and the initial and crime site. This will give a lead into the offender’s personality.

c. Look and see if the offender was just dumped at convenience or hidden, or mainly looking of evidence of either forethought and planning or neither.

5. Physical Assault

a. Looking at what the offender has done to the victim will give a lead into the offender’s emotional state and personality. It will also give one a glimpse into the degree of planning, impulsiveness, and possible mental condition of the offender.

6. Sexual Assault

a. Sexual assault committed against the victim may reveal criminal intent and the method and manner of the assault may reflect certain characteristics of certain personality types.

b. Typologies have been developed to assist the investigator in determining the type of offender, the best interviewing strategy, and other facts that could aid in the investigation.

7. M.O. vs. Signature

a. MO is the offender’s practical actions during the crime that can reveal clues about his identity. The MO can be modified as the offender gains experience and learns from his previous mistakes.

b. The signature of an offender will reveal clues to the identity of the offender as well. The signature is when an offender goes beyond the actions necessary to perpetrate his crime, and often reflects an aspect of the offender’s fantasy. Unlike the MO, the core of the signature will never change, but it can evolve.

c. Three common types of the MOs

      i. Tricky or open approach

      ii. Blitz attack

      iii. deceptive approach

8. Organized vs. Disorganized Criminal Behavior

a. The team must investigate all aspects of the evidence and weigh the disorganized aspects and the organized aspects and come up with an overall typology for the offender. The reason for both being investigated is that no crime scene is all organized or disorganized.

9. Offender Risk Level

a. If the offender disks exposure to identification and apprehension this may suggest a lack of sophistication.

b. One way of determining risk level is if the victim is alive. If the offender left the victim alive they become a witness and hence the offender runs the risk of possibly being identified.

c. Dealing with a repeat offender is more difficult because they recognize the increased risk level and will attempt to compensate or reduce their level of risk as many ways as they can.

10. Suspect Information

a. This is the most important thing to the success of an investigation.

b. Specific and distinguishable characteristics will effectively eliminate the “possible” and focus on the “probable.”

c. Information that should be included: name, aliases, address, social security and federal ID number, physical description, vehicle description, and any identifying characteristics.




King, M. R. (2003). A multidisciplinary approach to solving cold cases. In J. H. Campbell & D. DeNevi (Eds.), Profilers: Leading investigators take you inside the criminal mind. (pp. 243–266) Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books.


On the Web: http://www.csbsju.edu/uspp/CrimPsych/CPSG-9.htm


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